What is SEO and how does it work?

In recent times, the term “SEO” has become commonplace in the vocabulary of those who work within the marketing sphere. Less than a decade ago, SEO was virtually non-existent; today it’s a crucial marketing tool for businesses of all sizes.

So what exactly is SEO?

In a nutshell, SEO (also known as search engine optimisation) is the process of optimising a website in relation to certain key phrases, with the aim being to improve the site’s search engine results page (SERP) rankings. Search engines, when determining their SERP rankings, like to see certain things on a website (on-site), as well as particular things relating to your site elsewhere on the internet (off-site). SEO works to address these two requirements, ensuring the site is read accurately and favourably by major search engines such as Google. Search engines utilise algorithms (a mathematical formula that balances and compares different qualities) to determine how well a site ranks. When someone enters a search query, the search engine is aiming to provide them with the most accurate and relevant results in accordance with the key phrases they have entered. In short, SEO aims to make sure your site appears as the best match to relevant key phrases, drawing potential clients to your website, and thereby increasing website traffic.

How it Works

Search engines are continually changing their algorithms in order to ensure those searching are provided with the best possible user experience. This being said, the basic principles remain the same:

Onsite work:

  • Sitemap/website structure – allows search engine bots to crawl a website accurately and effectively
  • Canonicalisation – addressing any issues to ensure bots read your site accurately and as intended
  • On-page content – information rich, and optimised with any relevant keywords
  • Internal content links – linking internal pages to each other to boost authority
  • Title tags – optimised using relevant key phrases

Offsite work:

  • High quality back links – directed to your site from other relevant, authoritative sources
  • Social media – an active social media presence can help boost site authority
  • Offsite citations – ‘mentions’ of a site that aren’t actual links, such as directory listings phrases
Effective SEO is all about strategy and using the right techniques. However, some aspects are out of your control. Search engines view more than 200 different ‘signals’ when analysing a website, and each year search engines such as Google make more than 400 adjustments to their algorithm in order to promote user experience. It is therefore very important that your SEO company is in keeping with the times.

Keywords Research

When it comes to selecting key words (or key phrases), it is important to choose ones that are not only relevant to your business, but also generate plenty of website traffic – and therefore a better ROI. Each day, 25% of search terms used are effectively new, and it’s therefore important to carry out thorough research to see which terms are generating the most traffic. A common plan of attack is to create keyword clusters around ‘core’ key phrases – for example, carpet cleaning may be followed by key phrases such as carpet cleaning Melbourne, professional carpet cleaning and carpet cleaning company.

On-page Content

Website content is very important. It needs to be relevant, in-depth and include the relevant key phrases. Generally, the core key phrase are matched to the homepage, while additional key phrases are matched to the relevant internal pages. If necessary, new pages might be created to accommodate some key phrases. Recent algorithm updates have meant that it’s important to ensure content is not ‘over-optimised’ – that is, certain key words or phrases should not be overused. Rather than help your site to rank, over-optimised content can actually have an adverse effect on rankings.


While the back end of your website is out of sight, it’s certainly not out of mind. It’s important to make sure pages are correctly indexed, and that any canonicalisation issues are taken care of – allowing search engine bots to read your site effectively and accurately. A website’s sitemap also needs to be correctly structured and easy to understand for search engine bots; the sitemap is essentially a collection of road signs that help bots navigate your site with ease.

Back Links

In short, back links make it seem as though your site is ‘being talked about’, thereby increasing your site’s authority. Search engines view back links as a ‘vote of confidence’ – if people are talking about your site, it must be relevant, informative and worth visiting. In recent times, the quality of back links has become very important. Links needs to be:
  • Placed on authoritative sites
  • Placed on sites that a relevant to your industry
  • Incorporated using anchor text that is ‘natural’ – think ‘click here’, rather than ‘carpet cleaner Melbourne’
  • ‘White-hat’ – viewed as ethical by search engines
Social media is also very important. An active social media profile can be linked to your website, boosting authority and relevancy.

Offsite Citation Profile

Offsite citation profiles are mentions of your business, without an actual link to the website. These are often in the form of directory listings, and may include your name, physical address, phone number or website address. These listings are useful when it comes to Google Maps and other location-based search result listings.

Get Results with SEO

While the SEO process is quite involved, the outcomes of an effective SEO campaign are relatively simple. When carried out correctly, SEO has the ability to boost SERP rankings. More often than not, this leads to an increase in website traffic, as your site is placed front and centre when potential clients come looking. An increase in traffic has the potential to boost leads, sales and ultimately your bottom line. At the end of the day, that’s what a marketing campaign is all about – an excellent ROI!